CASCAR: California Animal Shelter COVID Action Response

We’re proud of the adaptability and resourcefulness being shown by so many California shelters in response to the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of April 2020, we began convening a weekly zoom call to help in the sharing of ideas, processes, and protocols being implemented and tested throughout the state.

The group that arose from the initial calls elected to adopt the name California Animal Shelter COVID Action Response (CASCAR).

NOTE: CASCAR arose as an organic response to the urgent changes forced by COVID. Just as the pandemic evolved, so too must CASCAR. California for All Animals is the next chapter of our story, one that is springing forth from opportunity and promise. 

07/27/21: Community Cats

We had a great Million Cat presentation from some experts late last month, “The Top Ten: Questions and Controversy with Community Cat Programs” ( The presentation featured Maddie’s Director of Feline Lifesaving, Monica Frenden, HSUS Senior Analyst, Cat Protection & Policy, Danielle Bays, Executive Director of Stray Cat Alliance, Christi Metropol). We really liked the simple, “top ten” approach they took so we asked them back to do a special Q and A just for CASCAR. They were joined by Brandy Kuentzel from Shelter PALS for the California-specific legal perspective as our discussion continues to evolve. Email for info.

07/13/21: Funding for CA Animal Shelters

Governor Newsom may soon sign a budget trailer bill that includes a $45M one-time additional expenditure to help California animal shelters reach their goal that no healthy/treatable animal be euthanized. Dr. Hurley opens a discussion about how to leverage that expenditure to ensure lasting, equitable change.

06/29/21: Using Data to Improve Dog RTO

Tom Kremer discusses the data behind his Frontiers article, “A New Web-Based Tool for RTO-Focused Animal Shelter Data Analysis” (link opens in new window). Tom will show us how the team at Dallas Animal Services was able to use this tool to document where dogs were coming from in the community and how far from home they were found.

06/15/21: What happens to a cat when you put it back?

Join us as we welcome special guest Brittany Sundell of Idaho’s West Valley Humane Society. Brittany’s innovative, low-cost research is strengthening bonds between the shelter and community, and ensuring the best care and outcomes for local felines by providing valuable data about the cats of Canyon County.

06/1/21: California Shelters talk about appointment-based services post-pandemic

We’ve learned a lot about sheltering during this pandemic, a few key takeaways being the enormous benefits of offering appointments as a way of delivering better customer service, the stress (and therefore illness) reduction on our animals from less traffic, and the overwhelming impact having more control of activities, time, and resources has on staff.

05/18/21: Dave Hachey on Shelter Air Purification

Our friends Dave Hachey and Dr. Lucas Pantaleon, part of the team that brought us RescueTM (aka, accelerated hydrogen peroxide), talk about how to choose an air purifier that works for you and present a new air purifier they are helping bring to market. This is not a sales pitch, really intended to be an informative exchange so we can ask questions and understand the science and potential of a novel approach to pathogen inactivation in the air.

05/04/21: Noise Annoys

UBC Animal Welfare Program researcher (and Livermore native) Bailey Eagan presents, “Measuring and Minimizing Sound in Shelters to Improve Cat Welfare” based on her study at the BC SPCA.

04/20/21: Office Hours

In order to let folks preparing for Expo miss this meeting without FOMO, Drs. Hurley and Karsten hosted a very optional unstructured office hours call. There is no recording.

04/06/21: Rounding the Bend – Survey Results

Dr. Hurley presents the results of the latest CASCAR Survey (it’s still open; if you haven’t yet filled it out, you can do so here).

03/18/21: Serving Pets and People in Sacramento

Jace Huggins of Front Street Animal Services has expanded the lifesaving mission of his shelter by sharing information about COVID vaccinations when people interact with the shelter for help with animals.

03/18/21 marked the approximate one-year anniversary of California’s initial lockdown in response to the nascent pandemic. During the first half of the meeting, we gathered in breakout rooms to talk about where we were, where we are, and what we imagine the future might be. Then we reconvened in the larger group to talk before Jace made his presentation.

03/04/21: Building Trust, Saving Lives in Long Beach, CA

Christi Metropole and Anna Wong of Stray Cat Alliance join Long Beach Animal Care Services Bureau Manager, Staycee Dains to tell the story of how their organizations built an enduring partnership to save cats.

02/18/21: Field Services and Community Cats

What happens when a shelter onboarding new management faces a budget crisis and a global pandemic all at once? Chris Mayer, Field Operations Commander for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services talks about the benefits of finding new and better ways to serve the community under the constraints of COVID-19.

Then Kelly, Christi, and Anna describe the Long Beach community cats adventure, an inspiring (and still ongoing) story of a sometimes rocky but ultimately successful partnership between advocacy groups and a city bureaucracy.

02/04/21: More Managed Admissions

Kelly Miott (Tri-City Animal Shelter), Tracy Mohr, (Chico Animal Shelter) and Teri Rockhold (Fresno Humane) share their experiences of moving to appointment-based admissions.

01/21/21: LA County Moves to Managed Admissions

Can an animal care and control agency with seven locations, dozens of city contracts, and tens of thousands of animals admitted annually make a fundamental change in the way they operate to respond to a crisis? Yes! Danny Ubario tells us how Los Angeles County ACC transitioned to managed intake in the wake of the pandemic. This was no small feat in terms of internal and external communications and logistics.

01/07/21: Office Hours

For the first CASCAR meeting of 2021, Kate leads an office hours discussion about the challenges of dealing with personal attacks and ways to remain resilient. On a Klaxoon board, CASCARites share what changes they made in 2020 that they want to keep, and what they worry about for 2021.


The CASCAR online holiday party was the final CASCAR meeting of 2020. There is no recording available.

12/10/20: ShelterPALS on the CA Veterinary Practice Act in Shelters

SF SPCA General Counsel Brandy Kuentzel and animal lawyer extraordinaire Bruce Wagman are back, this time giving the legal lowdown on which staff can do what at your shelter.

12/03/20: Dr. Kate Hurley proposes “The Four Rights”

Kate presents a new framework for thinking about what constitutes success for animal shelters in the COVID era and beyond: the Four Rights. We want every animal in need to get The Right Care in The Right Place at the Right Time to the Right Outcome.

11/19/20: Dr. Denae Wagner on Ventilation Requirements for Animal Shelters

Dr. Wagner, KSMP’s facility design expert, demonstrates how proper ventilation is instrumental in achieving optimal air quality. She discusses how temperature, CO2 levels, and other factors impact animal health and welfare.

11/12/20: Office Hours – CASCAR Meets ADKAR

Dr. Karsten talked about the psychological difficulty of change and presented the ADKAR model of successful change.

11/05/20: Office Hours

Dr. Hurley kicked off the meeting with a talk about our shared values as animal welfare professionals. “We have hearts that want to be of service, that want to protect, that want to take care of creatures that are vulnerable.” Then, after 15 minutes in breakout groups, Dr. Karsten took a deeper dive into the results of the Community Perception survey and introduced some ideas about change management that she’ll expand on next week.

10/29/20: Laura Mullen on Foster Care for Ringworm Kittens

Can foster volunteers successfully handle kittens with ringworm? Yes! Laura Mullen, creator of the SFSPCA’s SPORE program tells us how. After the meeting, Laura shared with us a link to a video showing methods for “dipping” kittens thoroughly, safely and humanely.

10/22/20: Becky Margiotta on Leading Change

Becky Margiotta created and led the 100,000 Homes Campaign that mobilized 186 cities to house 105,000 people off their streets in just four years. She then created the Skid Row School to train foundation and nonprofit executives how to effectively design and run large-scale change initiatives. She graciously joined us as a favor and because she loves her rescued cat (Sneakers) so much, she wants to help us all be more effective and sane.

10/15/20 – Doobert Foster Management Demo

The COVID pandemic has led many shelters to expand their foster programs. Chris Roy, founder of, and his colleague Rachael gave a brisk walkthrough of their web-based foster animal management solution. Doobert’s FosterSpace application can help shelters suddenly struggling to scale their program to handle huge increases in the number of foster animals and volunteers.

10/08/20 – The Diffusion of Innovation Curve

Dr. Hurley presents a chart that illustrates how change is dispersed through a population. Robust and perceptive discussion follows. Dr. Karsten unveils survey results about how CASCAR shelters feel perceived and would like to be perceived by their communities.

10/01/20 – Six months in – CASCAR pulse check

Kate asks shelter leaders what operational changes forced by the pandemic they’d like to make permanent and what they’d discard post-COVID. The tension between shelters and private practice veterinarians is discussed, as well as the pandemic-related shortage of available private veterinary care in some communities. Dr. Robertson asks if “incremental care” might be a solution and discussion follows.

9/22/20 – Office Hours

Dr. Karsten reviews the initial results of the Change Management and Communication Survey to explore how CASCAR shelters think they are perceived by their communities and how they wish they would be perceived.

9/15 – The Return of Shelter PALS

Do all the provisions of the Hayden Law apply to all California shelters? What’s an unfunded mandate? Does “shall” mean “may” or “must”? Bruce and Brandy, the SF SPCA’s Shelter PALS team, answer these and other questions about legal requirements for intake of cats and dogs at California shelters.

9/8: Office Hours

This week Dr. Hurley shared the results of our recent survey about the needs and preferences of group participants. Dr. Karsten shared her first draft of a CASCAR compact, a statement of shared values and commitments.

9/1: Communication Challenges for Shelters

Valley Humane Executive Director Melanie Sadek, Jennifer Hawkins and Jessica Novillo of Orange County Animal Care, and Jill Tucker kick off a discussion of the communication challenges that have come from making changes in sheltering practices.

8/25: Supporting Shelter Staff

At the beginning of this week’s office hours, Dr. Hurley offered “The Emotional Impact of Disaster Response – Supporting Staff and Leaders,” a brief presentation inspired partly by her reading on the topic of human health care workers. There are many similarities between shelter workers and hospital workers. Studies of human health care workers may offer insight into how best to support shelter staff and leaders during the current pandemic and beyond.

8/18: ShelterPALS on Legal Aspects of Veterinary Telemedicine for Shelters

SF SPCA General Counsel Brandy Kuentzel and animal law expert Bruce Wagman introduce Shelter PALS (Shelter Policy and Legal Services), created to help shelters with legal support and education. Then they walk us through the nitty gritty of California law around veterinary telemedicine for animals in shelters.

8/11: Office Hours

Dr. Cindy Karsten hosts CASCAR Office Hours. For the first 15 minutes, CalAnimals’s Jill Tucker and others discuss the political machinations around SB-1347, which was later withdrawn. Other topics discussed include adoption success inside and outside shelter walls, budget cuts, and more.

8/4: The History and Future of CASCAR

CASCAR went meta this week, with a call about CASCAR–how it began, how it has evolved, and where it should go next.

7/21: A Deeper Dive into DEI for Shelters

José Ocaño and Jyothi Robertson joined us again for part two of our DEI discussion, and we got a special report from Allison Cardona on how DEI works at Los Angeles County Animal Care & Control. This deeper dive into applying a racial and social justice lens both within our organizations and to the work that we do took place partly in breakout rooms, which were not recorded.

7/14: Applying a Racial and Social Justice Lens to Animal Sheltering

José Ocaño and Jyothi Robertson joined us again for part one of a two-parter (the next part will be Tuesday, July 21st), to dive deeper into applying a racial and social justice lens both within our organizations and to the work that we do.

Kate explained why we can’t fulfill our mission without changing the systems we work within. Jyothi took us through definitions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and showed how organizations and staff only reach their full potential where all three overlap. José described his previous experiences as a shelter leader and his current work ensuring that the culture at Best Friends enables the promise of DEI.

7/7: Office Hours

This “office hours” call includes discussion of various topics: intake after the the July 4th weekend, COVID guidance and messaging, what to do if an employee tests positive, microchip scanning by private veterinarians and shelters, and more.

6/30: RTF in the Time of COVID

In lieu of our CASCAR call this week, Drs. Hurley and Delany presented a talk about RTF in the time of COVID originally scheduled for this year’s Animal Care Conference. Enough questions arose that we plan to use our 7/7 call to facilitate an exchange of ideas about the appropriateness of RTF for cats particularly during this pandemic.

6/23: Looking at Animal Sheltering Through a Racial and Social Justice Lens

We were grateful to be joined on this call by James Evans, Founder/Director of Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), José Ocaño, Senior Director of Culture and Talent for Best Friends, and Dr. Jyothi Robertson of Adisa to start a series of conversations on how to connect more effectively to our diverse communities by examining our personal and institutional biases.

Special Call 6/18: Medical Assistance Programs

In response to demand from CalAnimals list participants to learn how shelters provide medical assistance to their communities, and to the generous response from shelters providing such assistance to share information, Jill Tucker led a Q & A session on Thursday, June 18. CalAnimals is also scheduling a webinar to go into further depth with several participants on this call.

6/16: Dr. Delany Demonstrates the Mighty Staffing Calculator

Dr. Cindi Delany walked us through her Mighty Staffing Calculator, which provides a rational foundation to justify staffing levels that goes beyond simplistic formulas that fail to capture the many facets of staffing needs to run a shelter. This is a work in progress and your input is requested, especially as we think about the work entailed in keeping animals successful safe in the community versus bringing them in the shelter.

Oh, and most exciting of all, we gave away a CASCAR mug and revealed the new CASCAR jingle courtesy of Andy Cowitt!

6/9: Working with Shrinking Budgets

As governments throughout the state continue to grapple with cutbacks, this week we focused on working with shrinking budgets. Dr. Hurley began by looking at budget cuts through the lens of operating within capacity. Julie Bank, Director of Riverside County Department of Animal Services, described the process of responding to COVID and massive budget cuts within days of taking leadership of the department.

6/2: Further Thoughts on Resilience

Dr. Robertson was back to follow up on her talk about resilience. Dr. Anne Martin gave us some information on the spread of the deadly RHDV among wild rabbits and offered a link to an SOP document for shelters and rescues.

5/26: Dr. Jyothi Robertson on Resilience

We followed up on some themes that came up last Tuesday. We started out with a quick update on appointment-based sheltering (not the same as limiting intake!). Then we turned to strategies for resilience from Dr. Jyothi Robertson, who has a special interest in that topic.  Jyothi is a graduate of the UC Davis KSMP shelter medicine residency training program and you can learn more about her and her shelter consulting work at

5/19: Empowering the Community

Dr. Karsten points out that dealing with COVID-19 is like running a marathon you didn’t train for. Or is it a relay race? We have asked our communities for help, and they’ve really come through for us. Dr. Karsten presents many examples, and resources galore in her presentation, “Empowering the Community: To reunite and rehome.” Gina Knepp of Michelson Found Animals offers “Helping Finders,” a brief presentation about what California law says, and doesn’t say, about ownership of found animals.

5/12: Phase 2 and Beyond

Kate takes us through the CASCAR calls to date and then presents ideas about how shelters can protect clients, staff and animals as we begin a phased re-opening of services.

5/5: Appointments and more

On 5/5 we chose a tagline for our logo, debuted our new zoom background, and announced Portalmania 2020. Jill Tucker and Gina Knepp talked about the murky legal path from animal finder to owner. Kate discussed the benefits of scheduling appointments. Animal Care of Davis County Deputy Director James Pumphrey answered questions about his video showing how his shelter uses Acuity to ease public access to services while managing shelter workload.

4/28: Introducing the ShelterMedPortal

This week, we voted on logo options for Team COVID drafted by Bobby Mann. Then our own Dr. Delany led us on a behind the scenes tour of the new Mighty Shelter Medicine Portal we’re working on to gather all the resources we’ve been putting together in a logical and easily navigable format. There’s a place to chat and hang out, a comprehensive webinar calendar, pilot courses on COVID-19 response, and more. After the tour, we spent the balance of the hour discussing ideas and concerns for pathways from finder to foster or adopter.

4/21: “Maintaining live outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic…and beyond”


We spent much of the meeting in breakout rooms with smaller groups sharing what’s working and what’s not as they’ve adjusted their operations in response to social distancing requirements. KSMP team members reported back on the discussions at the end of the meeting, and their reports make up the brief recording here (under 10 minutes).

4/7: “Shelter Admission Procedures During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Providing Service Safely”

Joining us on this call were Director Julie Bank and Veterinary and Customer Service Operations Chief Emma Perez-Singh from Riverside County and Maria Solacito, DVM, from LA County Downey Animal Care Center.

First Call 3/31: “California Animal Services’ Role During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

“All of us have a role to play, and the time to play that role is now.” Dr. Hurley surveys the landscape in California shelters during the early days of response to the pandemic and proposes leadership principles for all of us, rooted in our deepest convictions as people in a lifesaving profession.

If you would like to participate in future calls, register here. Get ready for the next call by downloading our official CASCAR Zoom backdrop (PNG). If you have any questions, please email